Ecumenical Climate Prayer Service in the Lady Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, 6th August 2021
Source: Independent Catholic News
Chris Carling gave this reflection during the Young Christian Climate Network relay walkers service in Westminster Cathedral on Friday:
Daniel 3:57-81, 88-89
Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace
That Canticle from Daniel sums up how God calls us to cooperate with creation to bless the Lord, to give glory and eternal praise to him. This is what God meant when in Genesis he gave dominion over the earth – not that we dominate or destroy the planet but that we care for creation, we till this earth.
However, humanity has sinned, we have turned away from God and we need conversion; ecological conversion. Like our constant spiritual conversion, this is a process not an event, it will last a lifetime. And it is always the work of the Holy Spirit.
In Romans 5:20 we are told ‘where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more’. Right now humanity’s sin against creation and against our creator is indeed increasing. The canticle proclaims ‘Ice and Snow, bless the Lord’ yet we are melting the ice caps and the glaciers retreat. ‘Seas and Rivers, bless the Lord’, yet we fill the waters with plastic. ‘Everything that grows on earth, bless the Lord’ and we cut down the rainforests. Our sin is increasing, but we do not despair because we are Christian and we have hope. We know that grace will overflow.
Grace is indeed already overflowing in this relay and in the YCCN. Young people filled with the Holy Spirit coming together at this ‘decade defining’ moment to share the call to care for creation. Already 300 miles in, they have touched hundreds of communities by their presence, and countless more by their prayer. Grace is overflowing.
That same grace is overflowing in the young Catholics represented here from CAFOD, CARITAS, Jesuit Missions and others. Knowing, like the YCCN, that climate change affects the world’s poorest, they are helping those most affected by the current crisis to take action. CAFOD are doing excellent work lobbying parliament: already 100 MPs have met with Catholic parishes and Christian groups through their ‘parliament in your parish’ initiative. They are also running key petitions to our Prime Minister and Chancellor. Jesuit Missions are taking practical action such as by supporting reforestation efforts by communities in Madagascar. The Holy Spirit is moving in these groups as they respond to the call for ecological conversion.
Our Pope, at 84 may not be young, but he is a wise prophet on this question. This man filled with the Holy Spirit is reaching millions. His encyclical, Laudato Si’ – Praise Be – a letter to the whole world, written six years ago, is becoming ever more relevant by the day. This Diocese of Westminster has heard his call and has just committed to seeking carbon neutrality by 2030. We know the Pope’s voice matters: at COP 21 his words moved nations and were key to the agreement there. We pray, his health permitting, he can come to Glasgow and move nations again.
Because this call to ecological conversion needs to spread. Thinking of our government, it is perhaps easy to despair; new oil fields being considered off the Shetlands, a second private jet for ministers. Yet there is hope, hope in this conference in Glasgow, hope that grace will overflow. Our government, our Prime Minister -married in this very chapel a few months ago- the delegates, we pray they are filled with the Holy Spirit at COP and hear the call to ecological conversion.
Conversion too is a theme on this great Feast of the Transfiguration. I resonate especially with St Peter who, on seeing our Lord transfigured ‘brilliantly white’ before him on the mountain turned to Jesus and said: ‘Rabbi … it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah’. It seems he wanted to stay in the presence of our transfigured Lord.
It too is wonderful for us to see the Lord transfigured on this relay. To see him transfigured in each other, hope transfigured in young Christians responding to the call for ecological conversion. For those lucky enough to have taken this relay into the city or who will take it out again, it is wonderful to see our Lord transfigured in creation. I think of the beauty of Devon and Cornwall and the walkers who will cross the Pennines before eventually reaching the Northumberland Coast. It is indeed wonderful to be here with our transfigured Lord.
However like St Peter, we too must come down from the mountain. He went on to experience his own journey of conversion. Denying our Lord three times during the passion, before experiencing the grace and mercy of the resurrection. He lived his vocation taking the Gospel, the Good news, the message of conversion to the ends of his world, to Antioch and Rome.
As we come away from this relay, how will we respond to the call to spread the message of ecological conversion? How will we cooperate with creation to give glory and eternal praise to God? As humanity’s sin against creation and against our creator increases, how will grace overflow in us?
Chris Carling is a Communications Volunteer with Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. He has recently completed a European Social and Political Studies BA at University College London.